27 September 2015

Hello, Fall!

It seems that with the coming of each season, our routine changes.  I have discovered that I don't like change very much.  At least, not when it throws me out of my comfort zone.  :)  Fall is upon us, though the temperatures have been very kind.  School has started, and while the kids are adjusting, mama it seems is still have a tough time with it all.

I can't seem to share the opinion of many parents when their kids start school.  To me, I'd rather have my babies around me.  We had a wonderful summer together.  Just wonderful.  I'm not ready to let that go.  Time is a precious gift.  It really let me connect with each child one-on-one at random times during the day.  I honestly felt that we had such a great routine going for us in the summer - profitable, relaxing, exciting and basically just right for us.  Now, I am rushing to get out the door on time without being able to truly connect with each one beforehand - at least not regularly.  I miss our less stressful mornings!

What I do love though is our evening routine.  Once they've finished any homework they have, we go outside to the park or wherever, and they run and play.  (D is great with that part!)  Then we come home, bathe if needed, get into pjs, have a snack, and cuddle up on the sofa to read.  And we read and read.  All three of them.  All over me.  Climbing, switching places, gently softing my belly, and then random conversations ensue.  Lots of questions, mental exploring, processing, revealing whatever's on their mind.  Oh, how I love that time.  I look forward to it all day.

And there are always weekends too.  In the fall, our weekends shift focus.  We are more eager to spend time together, so sometimes that means staying put.  Other times, there are soccer games, visits with family and friends, apple picking.  We've been apple-picking twice so far.  We suddenly decided to go last minute on Thursday.  So we picked up the kids from school and drove up to Dixie Orchards.  (I'm so glad for these last minute plans of ours sometimes!)  They were picking our favourite apple, jonagolds.  So we brought home a nice almost 1/2 bushel.  I suspect there will be more trips like that this month.  :)  The kiddies loved the play area and the animals.  J wanted to take a chick home!  They were only 8 days old - all fuzzy and peeping as they pecked at an apple.  How can you blame her!  

For this weekend there is food.  Thank God!  After a week of leftovers and last minute meals, there is a pot of chili on the stove.  And spinach with ground beef to serve with rice.  Like I said, thank God.  This mama is getting more tired each day.  I wish I had the energy to bake some fresh bread.  Maybe after I have a nap?  (I always say that and it never happens, but a gal can hope!)

Then again, there are so many creative projects awaiting, so perhaps I will get distracted in that vein.  Like this adorable Arctic fox hooded cowl that I crocheted in an evening.  (The yarn was super thick and worked up really fast, which I love!)  Except my youngest thinks she looks more like a cat.  What do you think?  Fox or cat?  

Joining Ginny and friends for this week's Yarn Along.  

18 September 2015

Small victories

It's hard to believe that my last post was 10 days ago.  It feels like months ago!  The days fly by, but then again, sometimes not very much gets done.  That is the last weeks of pregnancy, my friends.  What a battle I've been having trying to be productive!  Thankfully (and I say that wholeheartedly!) there have been some highlights.  At least, not everything has fallen by the wayside, though I often have to be content with cleanliness as opposed to cleanliness AND tidiness.  Small victories.  

It still amazes me how much time I need to spend in the kitchen to get things done.  The food prep takes some time, but there are dishes, cleanup, planning, and maintenance (like cleaning out the fridge for example) on top of it.  Usually, I try not to spend every day in the kitchen cooking.  (Otherwise, I wouldn't get very much else done.)  So that means I have to a) make several meals at the same time or b) make larger quantities to last as leftovers.  I usually follow plan b, but I'm ok with a every now and then.

For Thursday we had Shepherd's pie - the gravy bubbling up through the crusty potato layer.  I can't believe I don't make it more often.  Can't go wrong with meat and potatoes.  :)  There was some grocery shopping that happened yesterday and I could barely fit everything in the fridge.  Not a good sign.  So today was organization time.  I actually managed to clean most of the fridge, sort, reorganize and use up mostly everything in there.  Sometimes things get "lost" in the fridge and I have to throw them out in the end because they've spoiled by the time I find them.  I always feel badly about that.  Terrible really.  I really am such a scatterbrain at times.  

Anyhow, our fridge is stocked with delicious, healthy food for the week; ice cold wedges of watermelon, juicy oranges, a drawer of crunchy apples, peppers waiting to be stuffed and baked, some leftover Shepherd's pie, beets waiting to be roasted and sprinkled with the last of the feta cheese, homemade yogurt, hardboiled eggs.  Oh, and the chicken I need for tomorrow's molokheye.  (How do I describe that... it's like eating a soup of jute leaves boiled in chicken broth and eaten over rice.)  D has been requesting it all week, and so how can I not try to spoil him a little?  He is shouldering so much around here.  What a champ.

And then there is the new quilt.  I have started cutting squares.  Every day or two, as the case may be, I cut about a dozen.  Slow going.  That's ok.  The pace suits me right now.  :)  I don't know when I'll get to that dress I've been wanting to, but I have the pattern and the material, so it's just a matter of opportunity.  Right now, I'm just thankful the laundry is done (and folded).  Like I said before, small victories.

I have a need at this point to focus on those.  The small steps.  They help me realize that life is still vibrant, that we are still thriving (though perhaps to a lesser degree?).  When we took a walk to the park the other day in the evening, I couldn't help stopping to listen to the crickets starting to chirp, to see the birds settle, to feel he heat ease and watch the whole of creation take on a softer, muted hue as it readied for nighttime and rest.  Small things that might pass you by as you hurry to catch up with two very energetic little ones on their bikes.  But I am so glad I caught them.  It made the whole walk more beautiful, contemplative in a profound way.  "How glorious are thy works, O Lord, in wisdom hast thou made them all." 

So, we went on a rather spur-of-the-moment journey to the Dormition monastery last weekend.  I think it was providential.  The kids had just started school and were slow to adjust to the new rhythm thrown at them.  We needed that time together away.  They were showered full of love, of acceptance, of beauty.  Lots of little trips around, some talking with the nuns or Fr. John, feeding the chickens, making new friends.  It seems there are always friends to be made at the monastery.  :)  On Saturday night they had vigil as usual.  After Vespers, we took the little ones back to the guesthouse and got them ready for bed.  D was pretty bushed, having been up early, so he got ready with them.  Once they were in bed, I got ready to go back for the rest of the service.  Suddenly, M's small voice came: Can I come too?  I was surprised.  (Let's face it, how many times does a child ask to go to church when the service is long and it is dark?)

We went together for a beautiful 45 minutes.  He lay quietly on the floor, looking as if he was literally absorbing what was happening around him.  Towards the end, he started to nod off, but he managed to by fully awake for the final benediction.  I think he was proud of himself as we walked back together outside.  (I certainly was!)  Anyways, suddenly he looked up and saw the entire expanse of darkened sky illumined with stars.  "Mom, look at the stars!  There are thousands of them!"  (We cannot see the stars very well because of the city lights, so I think that was the first time he's seen the stars from the country.)  He was so full of wonder at the night sky.  For that alone, the entire trip was worth it.  There were no words shared as we walked back together.  I think our hearts were too full for talking.

And even now, my heart is full.  Full of so many thoughts, of emotions, of what has been and what is now.  I pray my heart stays full of these memories because they are a help through rougher waters.  Wishing you too a full heart and a goodnight.

8 September 2015

Snippets from around here

It's back to school as of today and this mama is a little blue missing her two older babies.  (They will always be my babies, as I tell them frequently!)  To welcome them back, S and I cleaned up the house and made strawberry banana popsicles.  It is HOT out there today!  I also have a sink full of dishes for M to do up when he arrives.  Believe it or not, that calms him down and brings him back to himself here at home.  (Sounds crazy, right!?)  That photo below is a list of words (in french) that he spelled the other day.  He thought he should get ready for school.  Hilarious!

As for J, well, I think she and I will have to cuddle a little and go over everything she wants to talk about.  (That is, after she has her favourite snack - a smoothie from the leftover popsicles.)  And then she can trade places with her big brother if she wants while I wrestle him onto my lap for cuddle session round II.  Sweet little ones, how I miss them when they are gone. 

By the way, I finished the lunch bags in time for the first day of school.  Hurrah!  One project crossed off the list.  M and J each chose their own fabric and it was a joy to make them with this pattern.  And they loved them.  So do I.  They are lined with thermal insulation between the inner and outer fabrics, so that should help with keeping things cool (or hot).  M has the pirate animals and J has the princess one.  I think though for any future ones, I will look for a heavier fabric for the exterior.  Something tells me it's a wise idea.  :)  

We managed to put aside a decent amount of peaches on Thursday - about 1/2 a bushel.  I, for one, cannot wait to enjoy them in the winter!  The kids were just darlings helping out.  M washed the peaches and then washed the dishes.  J helped put the lids on and screw the bands tight.  I peeled and cut.  And we all talked and talked as we worked together.  We still have a drawer of peaches that little hands reach into at least twice a day.  :)  That is also part of the fun to be sure!  I plan on putting a bit aside in the freezer for when I have time to make peach ice cream.  

Can't forget the tomatoes.  This was my goal for this year - to put aside a big batch of tomato paste.  We have a pot of almost-tomato-paste waiting to be finished boiling down.  (It needs another hour or so, but I haven't found the time yet to sit beside the stove as is needed when it gets this thick.)  That's M helping to stir above.  He and D were my big helpers with that bushel.  Between them, they washed, and cut up the whole box.  And M helped run them through the food mill after to get rid of the seeds and skins.  Once it's finished, I'll put it into some freezer jars I have and freeze them.  I learned that trick from my mother-in-law.  She keeps her tomato paste (home-made of course) in her freezer.  Whenever she needs some, she just scoops it out with a spoon.  :)  Clever woman.

On Saturday, we watched a soccer tournament.  It was a great time for the kids running from match to match, kicking a ball around between games with other kids, and just having a ball.  (No pun intended...)  M is especially fervent about soccer.  He just loves it.  I think he takes after dad to a T.   

And because they just came into season, we went apple picking yesterday.  I have to say that it was such a great day.  Sweltering hot, mind you.  Not ideal for trekking around.  Luckily grandma and grandpa have a sprinkler.  And so naturally we showed up with a bag of apples on their doorstep.  They kindly fed us lunch and sent us on our way much cooler.  :)  

By the way, it's remarkable how observant little children are.  They found so many ladybird beetles, wasps and other tiny insects crawling on leaves or out of apple crevices, to all of which I was rather oblivious until summoned.  M was especially keen on catching said ladybugs.  He kept saying they were eating all the "bad" aphids on the apple trees, and telling J to leave them alone.  J was happiest sitting with S munching on an juicy apple.  

These are the moments I treasure.  These are memories that bring me so much joy.  I love storing them up and coming back to them.  It's like finding a $20 bill in your old winter coat!

Wishing you more such sunshine in both rain and shine.  

3 September 2015

A little fishy

On Saturday, D took the two older kids fishing with M's Godfather at Heart Lake Conservation.  (Oh how they loved it!)  They got filthy playing in the mud and with the bait.  J wanted to bring home some worms as pets.  And M caught two fish.  Tiny fish.  But that didn't matter to him.  He kept telling me that he could help find food for us to cook and eat now.  (What a sweet little monkey!)

Anyhow, I got a chance to put my feet up, and then S and I made salsa.  First time.  Also, we made tomato paste.  Another first.  They are both just delicious.  I can't tell you how something as simple as tomato paste can be so delicious, but it is.  You can taste the sunshine and the earth.  (Not literally... that would probably taste terrible... the earth part especially.)  But I had no idea that you needed a bazillion tomatoes for one measly jar!  Oh well.  I used this recipe for the salsa, but omitted the peppers.  Our kids have milder tastes, but I did add fresh ground black pepper.  It did the trick.  A mild salsa just bursting with flavour.

By the way, that photo is some of M's math.  He is trying to memorize the multiplication facts.  It is a bit of a long process, I think, but he just loves it.  He brought this chart out by himself and started filling it in for fun.  That's how I can tell he's into math - it's fun work for him!

So this past weekend was all about tomatoes.  And cleaning.  And fish.  :)  And perhaps a little cookery on the side.

Looking forward some apple picking with the whole family this weekend!  Cheers!

25 August 2015

Weekending, monkey bars, and other tidbits

How time flies.  It is almost September.  Almost the last week of August.  I thought we just started the summer!  To be fair, it has been a wonderful summer, despite the fickle weather.  And by fickle, I mean weather that can't make up its mind as to whether or not it's August or May.  C'est la vie.  We have lots of indoor activities (like chess, and tic-tac-toe and toy car washes on the balcony) for inclement weather.  But my favourites are those outdoor times where the kids play for hours and we lose track of the time and the day stretches out gently.  

But the weekends have been lovely.  I must say.  And full.  Full of visits to the zoo, outdoor BBQs in the park, canoeing, playing soccer, practicing monkey bars, swimming and just about everything that makes summer special for little ones.  (Incidentally, we don't seem to have much trouble getting them to bed after these excursions.)  And yet somehow, these adventures don't make things feel busy or even remotely chaotic.  Perhaps we take a low-key approach, or maybe the excursions we have allow for us to relax together.  Or perhaps it's because during the week, we are mostly homebodies aside from the daily park visits or nature walks, so when the weekend comes we have the energy to go forth.  I don't know.  But I'm glad.  I emphatically dislike feeling stretched too thin.  And the more kids we have, the more stretched life gets.  At least we can control some parts of it.  D and I have always felt that it is important for the kids not to be rushed around from one thing to the next without time to absorb, process and just enjoy life.

So when I say practicing monkey bars is part of our summer, I am dead serious.  This 6 year old boy is just enamoured with those bars.  He wasn't able to do them at the beginning of the summer.  But he practiced and practiced.  (Every park we went to had to have monkey bars for him to practice on!)  And now he can do them.  Oh what pride and joy lit up that sweet face as he kept showing us how he could swing himself back and forth.  We keep telling him it was because he never gave up, and I think that resonated with him.  A good life lesson to take away from monkey bars.  :)

We received a present from one of our neighbours last week.  A pot of mint.  Such a nice gift!  It is sitting happily on our balcony alongside the spinach and parsley.  Our parsley has been getting haircuts quite regularly and I love being able to step out to the balcony whenever I need some.  Puts a whole new meaning on the word "fresh".  

My two-year old is quite a character, as you can see.  She likes to do everything the other two can.  And boy does she make it known when she's not happy.  It's kind of funny watching her pull her older sister or brother in the wagon for example.  Or try to run along when they have races.  She thrives on routine and order.  But what a fun girl to have around.  I can always count on her to be game for whatever craftsy, artsy project I do.  :)  

And because I am just brain dead right now, I will take my leave.  So much to do on my list this week to get the kids ready for school!  Hoping you enjoy the final days of August and summer. 

13 August 2015

Summer adventures

Last week we took a hike along the Riverwood Conservation trail nearby.  It was lovely.  The day was so warm, but hiking in the forest is cool enough to be enjoyable despite the heat.  The children saw all sorts of animals and birds - chickadees, bluejays, cardinals, sparrows, chipmunks, squirrels, bees - but no deer.  They had so wanted to find a deer, but with all the noise they made tramping along and investigating, I'm not really surprised.   I have to say that it was quite interesting hiking back up the hills on the way back.  Needless to say, I'm not in the best shape.  :(

On a whole different front, I have some terrible news.  Catastrophic really.  My fermented cucumbers did not turn out!  Oh how sad I was after all the excitement and success of the past.  I have no idea why either.  All I know is that they smelled off when I opened the jars and they had grown mold.  What a huge disappointment.  The only thing that remains is to try again.  And my fingers will be crossed the entire time!  (Along with some prayers sent heavenwards that I don't waste another batch of those delectable cucumbers!)

 I promised to help someone with chemistry, but it's been many years since university.  So, I have been spending most of my free time studying and refreshing my tired old brain.  Except when this cutie pie climbs onto my lap.  (What a monkey she is!)  She is our new pigtails - finally convinced her to let me put that mop of hers into some order! 

I am going through an interesting phase in the kitchen these days.  Everything to do with housework has become a chore, including cooking.  The bare minimum gets done in the kitchen.  Lentils and rice with salad.  Roasted potatoes and carrots.  It doesn't sound too bad maybe, but the joy has gone out of it for the time being.  Right now, it is a chore and I feel like rolling my eyes when I think of what needs to be done around the house.

Thank God for these darling helpers of mine.  They are little motivators.  Here is M making some dough for spinach pies since we need to harvest some of our spinach.  Honestly, they are so nice to have on hand when we want to head outdoors.  They're portable and delicious - perfect food for little hands to hold while running around.  And J is making a cheese sauce.  (With mama supervising stove-time.)  And little S.  Well, she's hunting around for a spoon to stir the pasta.  :)  

Everyone helps mama.  And mama is so grateful for the support that even little hands can give.  Bless their little hearts!  Now if only I could find a volume button for them...